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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 6, 2011 11:00pm-12:00am EDT

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important be piece which has been long ignored by historians. >> you can watch this and be other programs online at up next, journalist mike weiss talks about the killing of san francisco major george positive coney and supervisor harry milk by dan white in november of 1973. this is about -- 1978. this is about an hour. ..
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>> make it details the rise to power house city hall impacted them and the events leading up and his perceptions are poignant with compassion for the shocking events of the day. mark weiss was an award
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winning reporter for the services go, go and receive the mystery writers of america award for his narrative account of the assassinations. please welcome mark weiss. [applause] >> thank you. thank you to the members of the club for inviting us to be here. i want to assure you i will let everybody get out of here before dark which is not much of the promise of the longest day of the year but what i will do tonight is simply recreate the assassination and trial that followed in the events leading through the suicide. and try to answer some of
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the questions that i know still troubled people when dan white went down two city hall to assassinate george mosconi and harvey milk he had a plan. very methodical in the preparation and execution and he wailed his gun and filled it with five cartridges then took 10 extra cartridges out of the styrofoam slots which involved pulling each one out individually to wrap them in a handkerchief and put them in his pocket. he shaved, showered, put on a suit and tie a and told dade that he planned to give george and harvey piece of
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his mind. she borrowed car keys so there was a getaway vehicle and entered city hall through the steps and saw the policeman on the metal detector was not known to him. now he was a city supervisor and reversed course and found a window climb through and went up the back staircase. hesitated again that the door of the mayor's office knowing it was the security detail. the door was open with the clerk and stuck in the back door. killed a george moscone by emptying his former service revolver and the last two shots he straddle his body and put them into the back of his head then did something that he reloaded across city hall and
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assassinated harvey the same way and even an explanation for what had happened. he had ripped off and put into his jacket pocket the flyleaf called ireland the terrible beauty. when he turns himself in the northern station and asked if he had anything to say, he simply handed over that piece of paper he was carrying in his pocket. am i talking loud enough? and good. at his trial several months after these carefully planned and executed events he was convicted not of premeditated murder but of voluntary manslaughter and served only six years in state prison. that night, the night of his verdict city hall cave in to
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attack i have never seen anything that gave me more shivers. hundred and hundreds of people in those feeling exposed and vulnerable literally attacked the seat of government. knocking down stone and metal and set afire nine police cars so the whole season took on the phantasmagoric aspect with the light of the burning cars, as sirens, a crowd, and protesters fighting each other literally industry. it was tough fight. there every day for the trial and again it in the
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civic center that night and after the trial i felt very strongly that the trial itself failed to provide satisfactory answers to most of the questions that san franciscans had about that terrible event. the trial can tell you a great deal about what assassinated harvey milk and certainly did not get into any question of he was killed because he was gay. although that question lingers in many people's minds. is this a hate crime? and we also wondered what clearly seem to be cold-blooded murder and eventually confessed to having a plan but that was 90 years later after just as had been done.
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and to answer those questions, i took to write the book george moscone was a native san franciscan where he rose to a leadership position and what was what we would call the prince of the city. he closed many joints throughout town and has his good friend brown said is after two drinks he thinks he is invisible. and george was swept into office but one in the merrill the vote with the backing of gays come and neighborhood organizations, with a new force of city politics with
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their democratic machine. and harvey milk's background was very different coming from us smart new york jew and had a background in finance and theater and was then the navy, played football in high school but eventually he became the rosa parks of the gay movement and the fellow who went to the front of the bus to say i will be a city supervisor. i am gay and i will be elected. he was. which is quite extraordinary especially because at that time in the mid-70s, a san francisco was undergoing the integration crisis. maybe the only one in history but it was the integration crisis. the first time large number
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of homosexual people openly lived in one neighborhood and made it their neighborhood and demanded the full rights and protections of the law and it was a historic moment and had a great deal of consternation but the rest did not know how to cope very easily. there was the enormous amount of attention also from george moscone becoming mayor because of his coalition and the way the routed the city hall forces it was not unusual for copps to say would you like to hear my george moscone tapes? and another thing is the appointed the american flag
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from his office and was very much hated by the rank-and-file so that in many police stations on the bulletin board was the pitcher of the police chief who was seen as george mosconi's creature in the cross hairs of a gun. dan white grew up in san francisco but although growing up there at the and group in the southeast corner of the city in those neighborhoods if you stand on a hilltop and look down you can see sheets and underwear for flapping on hundreds of clotheslines. and absolutely had no background in politics. he had become a policemen and firemen and eventually a
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city supervisor but only had the high-school education and therefore he brought with him a high school civics idea how politics was conducted and thought the way it would work with the board of supervisors tuesday would put or his ideas and they would prevail. they knew better than that that the deal would prevail is the idea that has six votes because there were 11 members. and it marvell than any other skill he needed to account for the six. but yet he had a certain kinship and the two men had a very complex and hard to fathom relationship.
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harvey obviously made a lot of fun at them and was somewhat fascinated and then felt he and harvey represented the constituency that had not previously been spoken for in city hall. nonetheless the two men did not see eye-to-eye ideologically often voted against each other's most important pieces of legislation and and why found himself defeated and that the same time losing his job as a fireman because the attorneys said he could not hold that job and me as supervisors of the salary
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the 9600 per year and had the sweetheart weekend seat was a politician started off hot potato stand but his wife was working and dead the son charlie was carted down and he fell very pressured and then in the face of all the pressure he resigned abruptly and simply tendered his resignation. he thought he was under pressure for now really was under pressure all those people who relied on him the newspaper association and the firefighters and timber of commerce, a lot of people put pressure to change his mind so he went back to lou george moscone who did not like to say no and explained and said i will give you
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your job back but that did not sit well with george's constituents including harvey who said that is your job. you'll never be reelected because stan white is the magical number six if you return him then we liberals will lose those of the votes. so he changed his mind and promised and why he would tell him his decision but he did not do that. and found out because of a reporter called him at home than the next day george moscone would appoint somebody else to his seat. for me, the key moment is understanding dan white. the first people i talk to were his friends and colleagues that describe him as a leader and gung-ho in to talk to the high school
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baseball coach and he had taken a 70 because he had lost his father when he was about 50 nurse 16 years old. he was a little lost an angry and seeing him as a stand-up guy and he asked him then he was captain of the team that after the inning when he came into the bench he said why did you do that? and his response was to pull off the jersey throw it down and stomped on it and walk off the field and never came back to play for the game again. it told me he was a quitter.
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been looking at his career i see a different career i saw a guy who would cut and run when things got tough. the second half of my book in a good deal more detail the second half is about the trial. the reason for that is why the book is called "double play" because there were two assassinations comment and a dan why a day and a homicide detective who took that confession and a real compression -- confession privately was on the of baseball team bus someone
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who have lived through the defense then lived through the trial there seem to be a complete disconnect it seemed to have very little to do with the background i have already described. the assassination provoked silent candle lit march on city hall but the verdict provoked the riot. it is what people just could not tolerate. in whites lawyers who did an interesting job did not care what people thought. the chief attorney said to me society has nothing to do with this only those people in the jury box matter. but that is not trooper pro
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it was this true enough but also that we in san francisco had a need to understand what happened and how to see how it impacted our society and see how the act of whether incivility affected the union of civil people. all trials begin and end with the jury the first jury selection than the verdict. the prosecutor in the office of district attorney was a man and who had prosecuted over 100 murder trials. man was very successful career prosecutor and told his boss was was the best of
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first degree case is ever seen in his life. growth he had an engender of his own and wanted to be mayor and had a little problem. he could not be seen as going soft on dan why does the murder prosecution there was a death penalty waiting. but fearful of being seen as soft, tommy and showed decided to bomb all potential jurors who were opponents of the death penalty. that was not a club lourdes strategy because most people or anti-negative that of a bloated forward george moscone and harvey milk. they ended up having in the jury box that satisfied, nor men as his normal hanging
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jury he works very well within in the past but then they saw something completely different. he saw a jury much of what he expected and not what he got. nine as of the 12 lived in san francisco new firsthand what was changing. more catholics than nine catholics and those that were old enough to be his mother who had to guess the only one or two at most would vote for george moscone they were pretty representative of the new and old working-class a pretty good cross-section of the people who felt the press and neglected of the political system with housewives and clerical
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workers and a mechanic and a couple of painters and the wife of the jailhouse employee. most have spent the port and modest neighborhoods so this got the jury that it wanted to and for the prosecution and the most important witness they could have called. [no audio] the killings have been carried out and stevens had
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called -- came with him to mannequins that were backstage and the judge's office and he was prepared to testify their word deliver and violent and vicious acts but before he had a chance to do that, tommy norman completed his examination. doug schmidt was very happy did not cross-examine. and because the defense had conceded from the beginning he had killed these guys and confessed in no question. they put to the jury a different set of questions. why? line a man as far as anyone
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had known committed a crime to this hanus thing? and how must heebie punish? the defense took the position he had to be punished but said it is not murder a less serious crime and they have a mantra which was repeated again and again during the trial. good people with fine backgrounds don't killed in cold blood. it doesn't happen. let's find out what did happen. [no audio] the argument was simple.
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dan white cracked and mentally ill all along with a severe depression although nobody noticed never seen a shrink or diagnose stand as if to underscore that dan wyss that there like a zombie the shell of a man stares straight ahead with no expression and seem to take notice of the testimony and may have been catatonic but to be sure that he was not catatonic by played chess with him in jail but you have to have made public persona in that was his persona parker he sat there like a shell of a man and
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his lawyer who resemble him visit the strode around the courtroom young and vigorous asked to say this is who he was until the tragedy befell him. it worked. those for under pressure and white crack and not able to execute a plan. that not legally culpable for murder but there was in a diminished capacity law, one exception. if the killing was taken in revenge then you cannot invoke the diminished capacity defense and of course, the and whites killings were of personal and political tensions but never once in the weeks of the trial of the thousands of pages of transcripts did
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the prosecutor thomas norman ever utter the word revenge for are not once. was the oversight read in hubris tom newman and joe thought they had the sure thing to slam dunk. they never even addressed level in answer the question the jury most wanted to have answered. how did a handsome young working-class hero do something that horrible? is easy to acquire they took a cold blooded murder and got him off. it was an amazing events. in his summation doug schmidt who never attends church and is not god-fearing man invoked god 21 times in 48 minutes.
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but the trial raised another question as well. why are there psychologists and psychiatrists in the courtroom? they are propaganda. they is like the paid political advertisement. if just one time the psychiatrist or psychologist testified unfavorable a two this guy who was not paying him than and i have a differing view but they don't do that serving time in soledad released in 1984 live there for one year during that time that he would be there he be called up his old friend asking him to come down and while he was there he told him the
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truth. i went down to city hall and might also wanted to kill another supervisor. perhaps more than anything else what the final confession made clear is what i had already believed that dan why did not kill harvey because he was gay but he had defeated and humiliated him at city hall. he wanted to kill her be as part of the gang of four. after his years of parole and against the wishes of mayor dianne feinstein he returned to san francisco. he had no job and threats on
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his life and three kids including one conceived at zero in akon to gold visit that had down syndrome. . . >> he wrote a final journal entry pulling out a warm briefcase where he kept his note books in the back of a case under the stairway. it was not as neat and controlled as was his habit. it was scrolled diagonally across the entire page. my dearest mary ann, my last journal entry is written to express my ever-faithful love for you and our children.
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your devoted husband, danny. october 21, 985. -- 1985. he returned the briefcase to its place, and now he readied his own gas chamber. a 1973 buick he saber in his garage, he attached a pipe and sealed the gap with a towel. he sat in the buick and pulled the door closed. he clutched family photos. in the tape deck he put a mournful irish ball add of -- ballad of suppression and rebellion, "the town i loved so well." for what's done is done, it says, and what's won is won and ha's lost is lost and gone forever in the town i loved so well. you'd have thought that dan white had enough of martyrdom. he hadn't. he turned the key in the ignition. his final act was to condemn
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himself, perhaps convict and condemn himself. and, thus, he quit on those who needed him most; his wife, his three small kids who would grow up without a father as dan had, in fact, grown up fatherless himself. the consequences of this terrible crime and terrible miscarriage of justice are still being felt today. um, in my view it was the crime of the 20th century in san francisco. i think perhaps only the patsy hearst -- patty hearst kidnapping could possibly compete with it. and it changed many things. i'll just go through a few of them really quickly because i know time is running short, and we want to do some questions and answers. the first was it created dianne feinstein? i've been prompted that i have five minutes. [laughter] dianne feinstein had run twice
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unsuccessfully for mayor. she was telling her friends she was no longer going to run for political supervisors. she was going the withdraw from politics. on the day of the assassinations, as i'm sure everybody in this room knows, it was she who made the announcement, um, in a pink pantsuit that was splattered with blood from having been one of the first people to harvey milk's body and having harry milk's blood all over her. and, of course, her good performance as mayor catapulted her career forward, and she has become, as we know, the most powerful democratic politician in the state of california and has been for quite a long time now. and because she became mayor and george moscone was no longer mayor, the city move inside a more conservative way, particularly with regard to manhattannization which i don't have to explain in this room, i suppose. the skyline changed much more
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dramatically, quickly than it would have under moscone who allied with those groups who opposed a rapid expansion of downtown. and so the city skyline, the city's politics and our representation in congress all changed dramatically as a result of dan white. district elections, which is what brought dan and harvey to city hall in the first place, were discarded by the voters at that time although later reinstated. in the legal area, the diminished capacity defense was -- well, the legislature tried to eliminate the diminished capacity defense. they did pass bills that were intended to do that although it's still possible to conduct the state of mind defense. you have to frame it a little differently, but those same kind of defenses are still being put forward. and, but of all the consequences, um, of his act,
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probably the one that he least intended was this one. the biggest change dan white wrought was unintended. the acceptance of gay people here and in many other places across the country was inspired in part by the martyrdom of harvey milk. in fact, within a couple of months of harvey's assassination a hundred thousand people showed up in washington for a gay rights march, and most -- many of them were carrying placards that invoked the memory of harvey milk. in death, his influence grew far greater than had he lived. harvey's life and death became the subject of an opera, an academy award-winning documentary, and a 2008 movie, "milk," which earned sean penn an oscar for his portrayal of harvey. it's a testament to unintended
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consequences that although dan white did not kill harvey milk because he was gay, the assassination of a courageous and pioneering leader galvanized the movement and assured harvey's place in history. dan white is all but forgotten. george moscone has his name on a convention center and a playground where he passed part of his youth. but harvey milk will live forever. [applause] old journalists never die, they just keep on making their deadlines. [laughter] >> thank you, mike weiss, author of "double play: the hidden passions behind the double assassination of george moscone and be harvey milk," for your participation this evening. i'll be moderating today's question and answer period, and we have quite a few.
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>> oh, good. >> your description of the white knight riots was fascinating to me. it happened when i was still quite young, but just all the detail that you brought out with dianne feinstein upstairs and the crowds trying to tear down the building -- >> yeah. >> -- throwing tear gas in the building, it was really chaotic. carol ruth silver got hit in the face with a rock. >> yes. >> can you talk about how crazy it was for dianne feinstein and what was going on inside? >> well, city hall was packed with some police officers, and they were also being held back at the sides. but at the point which city hall did come under attack, the police were released. one of the really interesting things that i saw that night was i heard this grunting and banging behind me, and i was just standing in the middle of the riot.
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i turned around and there was these two women. one was a dike on bikes, and she was sort of built like sonny liston. and can the other one was a lady cop who was also built like sonny liston, and the two of them were just throwing haymakers at each other. they were just pounding on each other. this was one of the things that led me to say this wasn't a riot, this was a fight. i think the really important thing about it was it was an insurrection of law-abiding people who felt exposed, vulnerable and furiously angry. >> what do you think would have happened to george moscone? >> if he had lived? >> yeah. >> you know, he might well have been reelected mayor, he might not have been. i've talked to many be people of both opinions. he would have gone on in a career in politics, i'm absolutely certain -- >> even if dianne feinstein was in his seat? >> i don't think george was that big, myself. i hope i'm not offending anybody. [laughter]
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i thought he was a very good mayor although the pop, the received wisdom now is that he was a terrible mayor. but, you know, gavin newsom's supposed to be a terrible mayor, barack obama's a terrible president. someone thinks everybody's terrible. >> george wasn't from tremendous money, was he? >> oh, no, no, no. >> all three men were -- >> all three men were of modest means, absolutely. all three men could be described as having had working class upbringing. >> it's hard to imagine after willie and gavin, mayors that have been so affluent. >> yes. gavin has money? [laughter] >> so someone lists three calamities, and they'd like you to rank them. the earthquake of 1989, the zodiac murders, and the assassination of -- [laughter] >> well, they're very different events. the earthquake of '89 had some terrible consequences. people died and people lost their homes, but it was kind of fun -- laugh for those of us who weren't directly injured or suffered great losses, it was a
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very exciting time, and it was one of those wonderful times in the face of particularly natural tragedies in which people come together and behave very well. and i'll never forget the picture of joe dimaggio standing in line with a lot of other people hoping to get back into his place in the marina and see if he could salvage some of his possessions. the zodiac killings were, they with respect a single event -- they weren't a single event. they were over a period of time. more dramatic to me was the patty hearst kidnapping and the sla forcing the hearst family to distribute free food around the city. that was a pretty good deal. i don't know how to rank them because they're so different, each from the other. i wrote about all three of them -- [laughter] so i guess they're interesting enough to write about. >> and dan white was very connected with ireland in a misty kind of coffee table-book kind of way. >> yeah. well, he wanted to be -- i mean, he saw his irish heritage as
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having given him the gift of writing. he very much wanted to be a writer. and i've read some of his stuff. it's very, very stiff as dan was himself. um, after his, he was released from parole and during the time when he was mostly live living in san francisco, he actually went over to ireland to write, but he didn't write anything. he did take out irish citizenship which he was entitled to because i believe it was his mother or grandmother, i don't remember now, one of them had been born in ireland and, therefore, he was entitled to irish citizenship. he didn't write anything. he ran out of money, and he asked mary ann, his wife, to, please, send him the money to come home, and she said only if you see the shrink. so he came home, and that's how come he began to see dr. lundy. >> and they honeymooned in ireland? >> they did. >> with problems in the bedroom. >> yes. definite problems in the bedroom. mary ann testify today that in
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the trial. mary ann was a very important element in the trial. she's a woman of great dignity, um, and reserve, and she sat there every day looking fragment and be worried half to death sitting right behind dan on the other side of that security glass that created such a distorting effect. and then, of course, she testified for her husband. >> so what did the folded-up book jacket mean? >> oh. well, i think dan white saw the situation in san francisco as being to pressive, that the old, established irish and italian but primarily irish families who had run this city for a long time were being oppressed, supplanted by these new people who wanted to change the city in unacceptable ways. and so he saw a connection between the oppression of the irish by the english -- sorry, rita -- and the oppression of the older san francis cans by
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newer san francis cans. and it also had a powerful draw because it was his homeland. >> is that what drew him to the hot potato? >> no. what drew him to the hot potato was that warren simmons who wanted to build the hot poe pot, and these are a lot of permits and not a lot of help at city hall, and dan white was the supervisor. so he got the best stand on pier 39. right when you came in the door, it was the first stand in there you could get yourself some poe today toys. >> there wasn't a lot of discussion about dan white's time at sole dad. what was his prison years like? was he accepted in the population? >> he was kept in isolation. he was considered to be at risk and a danger. someone who was kept in isolation with him in a nearby isolation cell, and they were released for an hour a day to run on the track was sir hand sir hand. so it was like a festival of
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assassins. >> were you a fan of the true crime genre before you wrote "double play." >> no. >> no? >> no. [laughter] no, i like to read novels. >> and what happened to dan's two kids? >> well, i mean, the down syndrome son still lives with his mother, and although i'm told he's quite highly functioning. and, um, dan's oldest son, charlie, left the state and, um, visits occasionally. he actually came to san francisco when they were shooting the film, "milk," and sean penn had him on the set as his guest. um, that was an event that caused a great deal of consternation on the set. um, several people -- i've had two different people tell me they called the cops because it
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was pretty be frightening. i mean, here's sean penn portraying harvey milk, and here was dan white's son, and he seemed to be somewhat angry. but everything calmed down. apparently, sean penn did a great job and took him out to dinner o or lunch and calmed him down, and things went on. so -- >> someone asks, it's been my experience that gun-toting conservatives are always in their hearts cowards. what is your opinion? >> i would endorse that in this case. i can't imagine a more cowardly act than shooting two unarmed men. >> was there a moment during the trial when you knew the defense was going to succeed? is. >> yes. when the confession was played. um, the confession was played by the prosecution. it was inspector frank, dan white's old double play partner, who introduced the confession and played it. and i was listening closely to
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the confession. i thought it was completely self-serving. one of the things that struck me right away was that dan white only cried when he was talking about how hard his wife worked and how his kid had to go to a babysitter. he never showed any emotion when talking about harvey milk and george moscone, nor did he show any concern whatsoever for their friends and family and the people they had left behind. and so i thought it was a cold and self-serving confession, and i turned to the jury box, and people were crying. jurors were crying. what they heard was the raw emotion of this, obviously, shell shocked man. i mean, he was a mess when he gave that confession. and that's what they heard because they wanted to believe in him. >> was that the big tactical error of the whole trial? >> play thing the confession? well, no, because if prosecution hadn't played it, the defense was prepared to play it.
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they knew it was going to play that way with this particular jury. that's why the jury was so significant. they heard the jury in one way. now i as a person who felt this was a heinous crime and that george moscone and harvey milk were people i had voted for heard it completely differently. >> so dan had a stable home life -- >> you know, there were a lot of kids. they grew up in a pretty rough section of the valley, and there were a lot of kids. and then after his dad died -- and that was a terrible event in his life -- his mother married another fireman. and be i forget the exact -- and i forget the exact number, but there are like 17 siblings and stepsiblings in that family. on the day of the assassination if you listen, we've included a dvd that includes dan white's entire confession. you can listen to it yourself and see what you think. but it also includes many of the
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police transmissions, police radio transmissions on the day of the assassinations. and the first police dispatcher that you hear is a woman. and then later it switches to a man. the woman was one of dan white's sisters. she was the on-duty dispatcher that day. >> and in the weeks or months leading up to the tragedy, harvey milk had been through quite turbulent times as well, yeah? in his personal life? >> yeah. but i don't remember what it was. [laughter] tell me. >> a lover hung himself in -- >> was that just week before? i think it was just weeks before. i didn't realize it was that close. i'll have to read the book. [laughter] thank you. >> it just, it seems interesting that dan had a wife and a family, and harvey had all this turmoil, but they -- it's crazy. >> yeah. you know, what do you think would have happened to harvey if he had lived? >> yeah.
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>> i mean, i don't know. no gay person had ever been elected mayor. i'm sure he would have tried. or if not that, he would have tried for an assembly seat. i think he probably would have gone far. but he would have become in historical terms another important early gay politician period. not the person he became, not the subject of operas and academy award-winning films and books and so on. >> there's a question about the twinkie defense. >> ah, okay. >> there was, it was a much big or issue in the newspapers, yeah? >> the twinkie defense, i seem to have lost -- okay. um, thank you. the twinkie defense -- the phrase twinkie defense was made up by paul classer in who's a satirist. he was also at the trial. he was, quote, covering it for "playboy." paul once won a slow bicycle race, so that's not surprising.
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[laughter] but, you know, one of the psychiatrists -- one of the points that the psychiatrist and psychologists were making and the defense picked up on was that dan white who had been very concerned with his good health and he was a very strong, athletic kind of guy, he had abandoned his usual good dietary habits and was gorging on junk food and feeling very sorry for himself and moping around the house in his bathrobe and so on and so forth. and one of the psychiatrists, martin blinder -- marty's available for hire if anybody wants him -- mentioned that he had eaten some twinkies. and so they, it got seized upon. the a throwaway line -- it was a throeway line in a piece of garbage testimony. it had almost nothing to do with the trial. but it became the phrase by which the trial is known. history is formed in very
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peculiar ways, you know? >> um, it was very critical where dan reloaded, right? >> absolutely. an incredibly important point. and, again, the prosecution blew it. in his confession dan white says unequivocally that he reloaded over in harvey milk's office before asking harvey milk to join him in killing him. but the defense contended that dan white had reloaded over george moscone's body. these two people were a block apart. we all know city hall. one office on one side of city hall, the other office on the other side of city hall. the defense contended that dan white reloaded over george moscone instinctively out of his police and army training. um, that was not true. dan white reloaded just before he called harvey into his office. and once again the prosecution just, they allowed the defense to make that argument, and they
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didn't just shoot it down by replaying the tape where dan says i reloaded in my own office. because, clearly that would be indicative, again, of first-degree murder. i mean, if you kill somebody, now you've killed somebody, and then you run a block across city hall and then you reload your weapon and kill somebody else, well, that does seem as though it is deliberate, doesn't it? um, so again, the prosecution just, i mean, tommy norman thought he had a slam dunk case with his typical hanging jury, and it was a failure of imagination. he did not see that if you have a two-time convicted black felon sitting there being accused of his third felony, the jury is probably going to view him one way. and if you have a white, upstanding member of the community sitting there, the jury is going to be inclined to view him very differently. >> and all this took place just, what, days after jonestown? >> the assassinations were ten
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days after jonestown, and it was the darkest, gloomiest period in the history of san francisco. i don't, i just can't imagine -- maybe the fire, of course. 1906 was darker. well, there was a lot of bright light. 1906 was more devastating. but, i mean, first jonestown, and, you know, most of the people who died in the jonestown, as we all know, were people from around here. so almost everybody knew somebody or knew somebody who knew somebody who had been lost in be jonestown. and then ten days later this happened, and it just seemed impossible. i remember on the night of the assassinations after i had filed my stories and so on and i was taking the jay church home from building where "time" magazine was housed down in the financial district out to the valley, and it was silent in the city. as the trolley rolled through the city, lots of people out, and there was no noise. people were beyond words. you couldn't speak. you know? it was just too much.
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too awful. >> and jim jones was part of the coalition that brought george moscone -- >> well, yes. in fact, the reason jim jones fled as a couple of very good reporters were preparing an article in which they had gone to members of people's temple and said -- disaffected members of people's temple who claimed that jones was beating them and stealing their money and sleeping with their wives or husbands and so on. and, um, they were preparing this article which was going to blow the lid off who jim jones really was. and keep in mind that he was an ally of willie brown and george moscone because he had thrown out the people of people's temple to walk precincts. they had a very disciplined cadre of precinct walkers. and jim jones was aware this article was about to be published. somebody actually broke into the offices of "new west" magazine and rifled the files trying to
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destroy the article before it could be published. and then when it was clear it was going to be published, that was when jim jones left. so it was very much connected. and george moscone and i'll willie brown defended jim jones until the day he died. history is tragedy, not mello drama. >> what about tommy norman and joe after the trial? was that the end of their careers, or did they -- what happened to them? >> well, i mean, joe had no political future at all. he was through, and he left politics. tom norman went on prosecuting cases. um, doug schmidt and steve scherr who beat tommy norman in this trial liked tommy norman. i wasn't particularly friendly toward tommy norman. i didn't describe his style, but if you could imagine -- remember stanley tucci sort of slithering through the devil wore prada? that was kind of tommy's --
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tommy would never say "said" if he could say "aver." he was a pretend white house kind of guy with a widow's peak. schmidt and scherr felt so badly for him that they seriously discussed offering him a partnership in their firm. [laughter] they liked, they liked tommy norman. a lot of people around the halls of justice liked tommy norman and were sorry to see that it had all, that he had messed up big time. it sort of wiped out all the accomplishments of the rest of his life. and he's no longer among us. so may he rest in peace. >> we'd like to remind our listening audience that this is a program with the commonwealth club of california, and we're listening to "double play: how dan white got away with murder and changed san francisco" with reporter and author mike weiss. unfortunately, mike, we've reached the point in our program
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where there's time for just one last question. and i guess i'd like to know how, how would the city be different today if it were not for these tragedies? >> i don't know that it would be. um, well, i mean, dianne feinstein probably wouldn't be u.s. senator, but i don't know if that has much effect on the life of the city. there wouldn't be streets and buildings named after harvey and george. but other than that i don't think it really would be a different city. a lot of time has gone by. history flows forward, and things go on. and i don't see that on a daily kind of basis it makes much difference. in fact, we've got district elections again, right? i mean, they're back in again. i can never keep track. i don't live in the city anymore. it's such a pity i don't get to vote for the board of supervisors. but i can never keep track of when their in and when they're
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out because it seems to be a constant back and forth. but i honestly would say that i don't know of any differences that we would feel in our lives today if this hadn't occurred except for those few names and so on. anyone disagree? someone want to make -- give a better answer that be that? -- than that? that was a pretty weak answer. [laughter] >> our thanks to mike weiss, author of "double play." his participation in tonight's program. has. >> thank you. thank you very much. >> wal thank our audiences here as well as those listening to our recording, and now this meeting of the commonwealth club of colorado celebrating -- of california celebrating more than a century of enlightening discussion is adjourned. has. >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured on book the? send us an e-mail at or tweet us at
11:59 pm >> what are you reading this summer? booktv wants to know. >> hi, it's eric stack el beck from cbn, and what i'm reading this summer, number one s the road to fatima gate by international correspondent named michael. michael takes you on a wild, hellish, firsthand tour of the neighborhoods where the terror group hezbollah dwells in and around lebanon. from direct confrontations with members of hezbollah to being in the middle of israel's 2006 war against that group, this is a thrill ride of a book. i can't put it down. he's done just impeccable work, and he's a brave, brave on the ground journalist. another book i've been dying to get to for a while now, a large book that'll take up a lot of my beach time, "the legacy of islamic anti-semitism" by a friend of mine, dr. andrew boston, a


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